a messy Bible

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015

I had an “aha” moment when reading this article, regarding why I seem to relate to the Bible differently than so many people that I know. I can honestly not remember a time when I thought (or “was led to believe,” as the article says) that the Bible is “neat, tidy and consistent.” From my very earliest memories, I remember experiencing that the Bible was (and is) deeply contested – that honest, sincere, passionate Jesus-following people understood (and understand) texts in different ways, and passionately disagree with each other.

From getting into trouble with my grade 1 teacher to innumerable and often heated family mealtime discussions; from watching my friends’ parents go into my dad’s office to express concern about the things he was teaching at the seminary, to relating to dear friends who were (and are) conservative evangelicals, liberationist catholics, divergent-and-disagreeing Mennonites… Throughout my growing-up years I experienced the Bible as deeply contested space, and my faith has been (and continues to be) forged in the crucible of vigorous dialogue and debate, especially between committed, caring and passionate Christians who deeply disagree with each other. That’s where I have lived, and continue to live, my life.

And that’s how I’ve come to have such a passion and love for Scripture. Not because it is “neat, tidy and consistent” (I have never known it to be that), but because it is messy and complex and rich and challenging and generative and confusing and contested and always-revealing-more. My experience is not one of having to grapple with being in a “wilderness” of doubt because of the loss of an earlier experience/assumption that the Bible is “neat, tidy and consistent.” I guess I’ve never known anything but this “wilderness” (if that’s what it is). I find the “wilderness” of the Bible as contested space to be a rich, fertile and life-giving (as well as dangerous) place.

Braun’s article describes “elderly people who have deep-seated questions about Scripture and are glad for a space in which to explore them.” Reading the article makes me realize that what these “elderly people” are discovering is something that I have been blessed to experience my whole life – a space (in fact, many spaces) to explore such “deep-seated questions.” In fact, my experience has been (and continues to be) that Scripture itself provides and is such a “space” for wrestling with challenging questions together. I think of this as normal. But maybe I shouldn’t – maybe my experience is more unique (even weird?) than I realize.

Anyway – today’s “aha” moment renews my passion and conviction to do all I can to help generate, curate, and moderate such “spaces” for others. This is a big part of how I have come – and keep coming – to faith. I hope you can find such spaces too.